The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of those technological waves that is both exciting to experiment with and potentially frightening to miss out on. This often leads to what Scott Udell, VP of IoT Solutions at CTP, refers to as ‘random acts of IoT’, accomplished while companies try to figure out what it means to their business.
While this experimental approach is traditionally good for validating concepts or ideas of how IoT can solve a business problem or be used to monetize opportunities outside the immediate customer base, many companies fail to move from the prototype or Proof of Concept (PoC) stage to a full-blown deployment. Why? Most companies fail to design an enterprise-level enablement and deployment framework for these experimental operations. This framework should be jointly created by business and technology leaders and provide a clear set of processes for IoT solutions to move from concept all the way to a deployed and supported solution. Many times these IoT experiments only have support from one side of the enterprise, either technology (the majority of cases) or business, but rarely both. Because of this, IoT is often seen to be wholly owned by technology and lacks a direct connection to a business problem until further in its lifecycle when technology needs to justify the solution before continuing.
The IoT Sandbox
At the most successful IoT-enabled companies, you see a clear joint ownership and strategy model between technology and business. The IoT ‘sandbox’ that is created is based on the business’ needs and compliance requirements, as well as products and services that have been initially validated by the technology side of the house. Once the sandbox is up and running, the experiments deployed are prioritized by the continuous and transparent involvement of the business, and the overall enterprise strategy. From a technology perspective, this involvement is ideal because the technology side has a line-of-sight into the business problems they are looking to solve with IoT. Furthermore, they know that if their solution is successful, then it has a clear path to production deployment. This is big for cultures looking to promote agility, innovation, risk taking and making sure team members can see the benefits of their efforts.
Managing Your IoT Transformation
Innovation leaders want to see what IoT can do for their business while ensuring their investment dollars aren’t simply delivering them expensive, one-of-a-kind prototypes that don’t lend themselves to real-world deployment. To do this effectively, you need to build an enterprise IoT enablement and deployment framework. This means engaging with leadership from Business Development, Legal, Sales, Finance, Operations, IT, etc. to get an alignment and ensure that each stakeholder can ask questions and have their feedback incorporated into the acceptance criteria and deployment processes for these IoT projects.
For example, IoT deployments can cause huge headaches for Legal and Finance, based on their need for both capital and operational expenditures in various countries, data collection and distribution regulation, global data privacy compliance, deployment labor costs and many more complex aspects. This can quickly derail or delay a promising IoT solution when tangential teams are surprised when they get a laundry list of requests and requirements that force last-minute, heroic efforts to tackle or alter practices that are counter to their preferred process. By involving these departments earlier in the framework creation process, you are able to discuss concerns preemptively and work on mitigating them before they become a huge barrier to your IoT project’s company-wide adoption.
This may seem obvious, but often technologists forget that legal and finance teams are some of the most influential gatekeepers and can make or break your project’s success. Once they have approved your framework for building and migrating IoT solutions there won’t be any surprises. Although IoT initiatives may run into many of the same issues that other technology projects do, the novelty of IoT sets it apart.
From PoC to Deployment
Aside from ensuring that the business has early and frequent contributions to your IoT enablement and deployment framework, there are a number of things that many technology organizations can do to further reduce the effort required to propel a PoC into an actual deployment.
First, create an IoT sandbox with proper guardrails and controls so that anything built within the sandbox is known to comply with your company’s data governance, security, and privacy policies, and can be migrated and scaled without having to do significant refactoring and compliance auditing. Second, tackle the non-functional requirements from the get-go so you can greatly increase the speed of your IoT efforts. It will require a significant investment up front to build the proper IoT sandbox and the enterprise framework, but you will reap the dividends quickly as your lines of business are able to explore IoT solutions within the safety of the sandbox. Once a viable solution has been identified, the team will have the proper processes to get it approved for a wide-scale production deployment.
Victory Through a CBO
At CTP we encourage our clients to create a Cloud Business Office (CBO) to serve as the central point of decision-making and communication for your initiatives. It is critical to approach IoT solutions with a holistic view by engaging the business and technology groups in creating an IoT enablement and deployment framework. This specific IoT framework can live within the CBO, or be its own entity, but it is important to lay the proper foundation and guardrails for your organization to safely and effectively explore IoT solutions. Without a CBO, having various IoT environments and states of compliance and testing can bring IoT adoption to a crawl while you try to unify your various efforts and mitigate the internal fallout. In today’s fast-paced technology environment, the Latin proverb still holds true: Amat victoria curam (victory loves diligence).